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Landscape Designer Visit: A “Showstopper” Backyard in Brooklyn

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Landscape Designer Visit: A “Showstopper” Backyard in Brooklyn

July 2, 2021

When Sarah and Mike Hudnall bought a renovated townhouse in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, they were thrilled to finally have a backyard. But they knew it needed lots of work. They wanted the long, skinny space–typical of New York City backyards–to serve many functions: providing space for cooking, for hanging out, for growing things, and for their kids to play. Sean Lewis and Jesse Terzi, partners in Brooklyn’s New Eco Landscapes, got the job done in four weeks.

Photography by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista.

&#8\2\20;Mike and Sarah were open to design ideas,&#8\2\2\1; says Sean Lewis, &#8\2\20;but they specifically asked for a &#8\2\16;showstopper&#8\2\17;.&#8\2\2\1; They got it in the wooden pergola, a cantilevered structure that shades the dining table in the middle of the day and defines the space.
Above: “Mike and Sarah were open to design ideas,” says Sean Lewis, “but they specifically asked for a ‘showstopper’.” They got it in the wooden pergola, a cantilevered structure that shades the dining table in the middle of the day and defines the space.
Much of the backyard was concrete slab; New Eco covered that with gravel and bluestone. The designers also sourced the furnishings: blue Fermob chairs; teak tables, couch, and chairs; and barnlight sconces. Heat lamps for chilly evenings are mounted over the couch and on the pergola.
Above: Much of the backyard was concrete slab; New Eco covered that with gravel and bluestone. The designers also sourced the furnishings: blue Fermob chairs; teak tables, couch, and chairs; and barnlight sconces. Heat lamps for chilly evenings are mounted over the couch and on the pergola.

In an unusual move for this densely populated city, several sections of fence were left partially open. “We did that to allow more light in,” says Lewis, “and not shut out the neighbors so much.”

New Eco custom-designed the two powder-coated steel brackets that support the pergola. The footings are anchored in 3 feet of concrete underground. &#8\2\20;They&#8\2\17;re not going anywhere,&#8\2\2\1; Lewis says. Behind, a shade-loving acuba shrub and liriope, a hardy perennial that thrives in full sun or full shade.
Above: New Eco custom-designed the two powder-coated steel brackets that support the pergola. The footings are anchored in 3 feet of concrete underground. “They’re not going anywhere,” Lewis says. Behind, a shade-loving acuba shrub and liriope, a hardy perennial that thrives in full sun or full shade.
&#8\2\20;The stump stools are from a locust tree that fell across the yard at my place in upstate New York,&#8\2\2\1; says Lewis. Waterproof white paint provides a finish for the tops. New Eco suggested a green wall of ivy, but the Hudnalls found something they liked better. They collaborated with artists Gray Edgerton and Manoela Madera of Kiik Create to come up with this colorful mandala-like mural.
Above: “The stump stools are from a locust tree that fell across the yard at my place in upstate New York,” says Lewis. Waterproof white paint provides a finish for the tops. New Eco suggested a green wall of ivy, but the Hudnalls found something they liked better. They collaborated with artists Gray Edgerton and Manoela Madera of Kiik Create to come up with this colorful mandala-like mural.
A request for a &#8\2\20;fire feature&#8\2\2\1; resulted in this wood-burning stove from the Dutch company Weltevree; the stove is rusting beautifully in place. Open the door and slide in a pizza to bake.
Above: A request for a “fire feature” resulted in this wood-burning stove from the Dutch company Weltevree; the stove is rusting beautifully in place. Open the door and slide in a pizza to bake.

Planted next to the stove: coreopsis, a reliable, low-maintenance perennial that flowers all summer. A water-efficient irrigation system keeps all the plants happy.

A propane grill expands the cooking possibilities. It stands on a custom-built cedar cabinet with poured concrete countertops on both sides and plenty of storage space. (Tabletop items provided by ABC Carpet & Home.)
Above: A propane grill expands the cooking possibilities. It stands on a custom-built cedar cabinet with poured concrete countertops on both sides and plenty of storage space. (Tabletop items provided by ABC Carpet & Home.)
Pots of mint and other herbs sit on a ledge beside the stairs leading down to the yard, close at hand whether the food prep is indoors or out.
Above: Pots of mint and other herbs sit on a ledge beside the stairs leading down to the yard, close at hand whether the food prep is indoors or out.
Locust trees shade the back section of the yard, but Lewis suggests they might need a trim to encourage the lawn, which was put in a few months ago. Sarah planted the raised bed with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and jalapeños–a small crop, and mostly for fun.
Above: Locust trees shade the back section of the yard, but Lewis suggests they might need a trim to encourage the lawn, which was put in a few months ago. Sarah planted the raised bed with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and jalapeños–a small crop, and mostly for fun.

“Having a Brooklyn backyard was our dream,” says Sarah. “And the way Sean and his team completed it was beyond all our expectations.”

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published July 2014.

For more Brooklyn gardens, see:

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